A Man Is Not His Family

I have recently had a number of conversations, with both men and women, about the nature of self, family, and marriage. All of them came up randomly (it seemed to me), and all ended with no clear resolution, no answers.

One conversation was with the wife of a good friend of mine, centering around the fact that her husband is struggling with fatherhood. He’s not struggling to love his child or wife, but he’s feeling like he’s disappearing – getting lost in the marriage and family, and wondering who he is.

This topic is something that I’ve been thinking about for some time now, and I’ve started numerous posts on it, only to get stuck. So today, I’ve decided to just pursue it a bit, even if I have no conclusion. Let’s see where we get…

What is a man?

  • A man is not his family.
  • A man is not his marriage.
  • A man is not his job.
  • A man is not his father.
  • A man is not his favorite sports team or his dream car.
  • A man is not the clothes he wears (or the clothes his wife wants him to wear – she would probably call them an “outfit”, anyway).
  • A man is not his tattoos.

So that’s a start to what a man isn’t, but what is a man?

I don’t know…

I was reading a post at Finance Your Freedom which echoed a lot of the things that I have been thinking of lately.

I believe that we discover who we are by slowly eliminating who we are not: Once we begin to question this seemingly deterministic fate – this path laid before us by social conventions, language and media noise – we begin to discover, or uncover, our ideal self and shed light upon our own path.

I struggled through a long period in my life where I had resigned myself to being poor, to just getting by and trying to live simply (so my paycheck would last longer…) And then I realized that because that’s what I focused on, that’s what I got…

So I came to realize that the box that I put myself in was way too small, and I resolved to change it.

The book As a Man Thinketh came back into my life, after reading it 20 years ago. I found the 4-Hour Work Week at a thrift store, and it was an eye-opener, as was The Success Principles.

I read all of the positive thinking/affirmation literature I could find. I resolved to change my life, and started by acknowledging a piece of myself that I had neglected.

During all of my years of working in various dead-end jobs, my fruitless attempt at college, and relationships and children, I had managed to avoid that which I enjoyed most.


I would still scribble late at night, but with no clear aim or audience. I probably trashed 95% of what I wrote (and the other 5% is highly suspect). But I still made attempts, most involving the purchasing of fresh notebooks and new pens. I was full of ideas that I planned to write about when I became a writer.

I read a lot of blogs, yet never considered writing one myself. However, one night in May, I was down in the man cave paying the bills, surfing the net, when I came to the Blogger home page. What the hell, I thought. I’ll just start.

Natural Father is the result. (now Natural Papa) I thought of it as a practice ground for “becoming a writer”.

And then one day I get a message from the editor of Eco Child’s Play, asking if I was interested in writing for the site. Heck yeah, I’m interested, I responded.

All of a sudden I was a writer. It changed the way that I thought. I had an actual audience now, and I could envision a future for myself doing what I love. Now my identity includes that part of myself, and I feel a sense of fulfillment from it, even if I’m not being interviewed on Oprah, or raking in the big bucks.

How does that tie in to the title?

I’m not sure. I told you I kept getting stuck…

Does it make sense to you? Comment if you have a clue.

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Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

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